Under the darkest skies…

Sustainability meets stargazing in the Namib Desert

By Kylie MacKenzie

Aptly named, Sossusvlei, the African word for “dead-end marsh,” the lodge is located in a salt and clay pan at the end of a river. Part of the Namib Rand Nature Reserve within the Namib Naukluft National Park, it is one of only 16 designated “Dark Sky Reserves” in the world. (For those who haven’t encountered them, Dark Sky Reserves are known for their clear skies and very minimal light pollution.)

“Sossusvlei” also refers to the wider region’s surround- ing 32,000 square kilometre desert area. It includes neighbouring white vleis, such as the famous Deadvlei, with their high concentration of white salt. Vleis are a phenomenon that are formed after the marshes and rivers created by the rains eventually dry out. The area extends between the Koichab and Kuiseb rivers.

The area’s claim to fame is its ancient red and pink-to-orange dunes, among the highest in the world. Many of them are above 200 metres. The region’s highest is nicknamed “Big Daddy” at a remarkable 325 metres, however the highest dune in the Namib Desert, Dune 7, is about 388 metres high.

Interestingly enough, the highest and more stable dunes are partially covered in rich vegetation, thanks to under- ground and ephemeral rivers that flood the pans at certain times of the year. Another relevant source of water for Sossusvlei is the humidity brought by the mystical daily morning fogs that enter the desert from the Atlantic Ocean.

Fauna here is made up of small animals that can survive with very little water. Expect to see a unique collection of small reptiles, mammals and migrant birds. On the larger side, watch for Ostriches and Antelopes, mainly oryxes and springboks. The common Namib Desert Beetles is also noteworthy. He’s developed a technique for collecting water from morning fogs through the bumps in his back.

Booking this andBeyond lodge as a luxe exploration base makes good sense. It’s easy and comfortable and designed to maximize views of the endless rolling red dunes by day and the star-filled sky by night. The complex now boasts 10 light-footprint, 1,400-square-foot suites, all of which have floor-to-ceiling glass walls and above-bed retractable skylights. Each self-sustaining suite acts as its own solar power plant, producing enough energy for electricity, air conditioning, and water treatment and recycling systems. Suites come with chilled plunge pools and solar-powered freezer drawers stocked with everything from ice cream to Namibian craft beer. There are also large private verandas with outdoor showers and fire pits adding to the already laid-back ambiance.

Would this be a ‘bucket list’ trip? Without a doubt and, as expected, the Sossusvlei Desert Lodge brings new meaning to getting away from it all…in style.


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